Routine: I Can’t Show You the Yellow Handkerchief!

My first motivation in sharing this routine is my own pleasure in performing it. I am not exactly sure why, but I love to do it. It is simple, yet magical. It is silly, yet entertaining. I hope you will give it a try.

What happens?

The magician invites a volunteer on stage to assist him with the famous “Yellow Handkerchief” trick. The magician seems to then be unable to find the yellow handkerchief. As he looks for it, it appears repeatedly, yet he does not notice it. Eventually the yellow handkerchief changes into a gigantic multi-colored streamer.


This is a Change Bag trick. I use the “Hidden Spring” version, sold at Laflinmagicstore. Any kind of Change Bag will work, but the flat design of the Hidden Spring bag makes it ideal for the production of a giant streamer.


–  A Change Bag 

–  A yellow handkerchief (I use an 18” silk)

–  A multi-color streamer (for this trick I think the bigger the streamer the greater the magic.)


Load the streamer into one side of the bag. Place the single yellow handkerchief in on top of the streamer. Switch the bag over so it appears to be empty. This setup means you can show the bag to be completely empty even though one side contains a long streamer and a silk handkerchief.



Invite a volunteer on stage to assist you. Announce that, with his or her help, you are about to perform the famous “Yellow Handkerchief Trick”. Ask the volunteer to reach into the bag and remove the handkerchief.

Hold the bag so that it appears to be empty. The volunteer will not be able to find the handkerchief.
Move the bag over in front of your own body so you can secretly switch it. Reach inside and take out the yellow handkerchief and show it to the audience. Hold up the single yellow handkerchief for all to see. As you do this, act disappointed and say, “I can’t believe I forgot to bring this handkerchief. You would have loved the trick I planned to do with it.” (Of course the audience will realize that the handkerchief is there after all, but you act like you do not realize it is in your hand.)

Place the handkerchief back into the bag and secretly switch the bag so once again it seems empty. Put the bag over in front of the volunteer and ask him or her to please try again to find the handkerchief. Once again the volunteer will not find anything. (This should get some laughs.)

Take the bag back over in front of yourself and switch it so you can again lift up the yellow handkerchief and show it to the audience. Again say, “What a disappointment! If only I had remembered to bring this yellow handkerchief. I could have done a really great trick with it!”

You may choose to yet again repeat this business of having the volunteer look for the handkerchief and not find it, followed by you reaching into the bag and showing it without appearing to realize it is actually there.

At last, when you place the yellow handkerchief back into the bag, switch the bag first so it goes in on the empty side of the bag. This means the bag now has a yellow handkerchief on one side, where the volunteer will find it, and the large streamer hidden on the other side.

Hold the bag in front of the volunteer and ask him or her to try yet again to find the handkerchief. This time the volunteer will find it. Allow the volunteer to lift out the yellow handkerchief. Act like you still don’t realize it is there. Say something like, “You are right. If I had remembered to bring my yellow handkerchief it would have looked just like what you are holding there in your hand, but of course I forgot mine so we still cannot do the trick.”

Continue to act unaware of the fact that the handkerchief actually did come out of the bag. Ask the volunteer to place the handkerchief back into the bag. Once this is done, secretly switch the bag so the handkerchief vanishes and the streamer can be produced. Look at the audience and say, “I suppose you all are wondering what I would have done if I had remembered to bring the yellow handkerchief? I would have had my helper put it in the bag like he (or she) just did. Then my helper would have said magic words and waved a hand over the bag like this, (have your helper say magic

words and wave a hand over the bag), and the yellow handkerchief would have turned into a great big long yellow banner like this!” Start producing the banner. Make a big deal out of pulling it out of the bag. Have the volunteer take one end and stretch it across the stage.

Finish the routine by speaking as if you still don’t realize the trick actually worked. “If I had remembered the handkerchief it would have turned into a banner like this and the audience would have gone crazy with applause. It is too bad I forgot it so I can’t show you something like this…but we still can go crazy with applause because my helper here really did try hard to make the trick work!”

Thank your helper and enjoy the applause.

Comment about the routine:

This presentation is built around the classic “look but don’t see” concept. The magician does not seem to see, or realize, that the handkerchief is there, even when he is holding it up for others to see. Of course it is important that in the end something magical really does happen. The transformation of the handkerchief into a long streamer makes the funny business into a wonderful trick.


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